Impressions of the 2011 California Audio Show

The 2011 California Audio Show (CAS) kicked off today in a hotel just south of the SFO airport. Attendance was moderate, as one might expect for a weekday. This made for minimal waits in the listening room, and plenty of seats at the seminars and lectures.

Overall impressions:

  • Venue: The hotel was fine, both in location and facilities. Plenty of parking, BART access, SFO access, and the elevators *all* worked!
  • Music sources: A fairly balanced mix of computer, turntable, and optical media. I could not play the hires media on my USB stick in many rooms. Aberration or reversal of a trend? I dunno.
  • Innovation: Not much IMO. The new-and-beautiful DaVinci 348K DAC and the imperious Magico 350# Al flagships were perhaps two exceptions.
  • Whither flagships? Several vendors brought product well down in the lineup. In particular, small stand-mounters prevailed where floorstanders would have previously stood.
  • China marches on. A few more Chinese imports appeared. To my ear, the sound-quality gap narrowed.
My highlights reel would include:
  • Blue Coast Records. BAAS member Cookie Marenko continues as a keyfigure in bridging the gap between the recording studio and the audiophile listening room. Be sure to sit in on a live recording session. Is it live or is it DSD? The excellent Blue Coast Collection II CD debuted.
  • Bob Hodas Acoustics. I’m no great Focal fan, but the sound here was excellent. This was one of the few places where “the room vanished” – no small feat in a hotel. The Tape Project spun reel-reel. BAAS member Tim Marutani contributed here and with Blue Coast.
  • Lindeman Audio. Big, clean sound from a small pair of monitors – with the tweeter in the wrong place! Color me impressed. Expect a BAASevent.
  • Audio Note. OK, I like two-ways. This AN system gave away most of the bottom octave and some of the top, but who cares – the stuff in between was as juicy as an In-N-Out burger.
  • Audio Image/Magico Q3. No visit would be complete without hearing the monster Magic(o) Q3 – especially paired with brand-new Audio Research amps. Best speaker ever? Has Alon made a deal with the devil? You decide…
I won’t mention the fine-sounding Eficion F300′s, since I own a pair. Ooops…


Finally, on behalf of BAAS, let me thank Constantine Soo and Dagogo – both for the free passes enjoyed by most members and putting on another great event! Sort of like having dozens of BAAS events, all in one weekend…


Friday, July 15th, 2011 Audiophile, Bob, Events

3 Comments to Impressions of the 2011 California Audio Show

  1. Bob, I thought the Efficion room sounded quite boomy when I was there. It may have something to do with the fact that they had turned the volume way up. I was impressed with the Evolution speakers, for $2k! The other one was thenLindeman system. The little speakers are like $50k a pair. But they sounded big and deep.

    I’m not much of a Wilson fan, but the Sasha powered by Dan D’Agostano’s new mono blocks is the best Wilson setup I’ve heard, besides the setup down in LA where they were paired up with VTL amps. It still has that “Krell” signature though.

    I was pleasantly surprised of the number of new manufacturers and vendors from around the Bay Area, as well as one from south of the boarder. I attended the show last year. I’m glad to see the show is growing.

    Frank Cheng

  2. gundam91 on July 16th, 2011
  3. Thanks, Frank.

    When I first entered the Eficion room, the sound was quite flawed. The owner of the company (PJ) was unfamiliar with Mac’s and had his set up incorrectly. I fixed it and good sound ensued. That was late afternoon (3PM). Of course, the system could have reverted, and the F300′s can overwhelm my large room if played too loud…

    Thanks also for pointing out an error in my post – I meant “Lindeman,” not “Von Gaylord.” Yikes – I was in such a rush that I didn’t take written notes. I corrected the post. The price is $11K for the speakers (incl the stands), not $50K. Maybe $50K was for the system?

    I thought that the 3 pairs of Wilson’s that I heard sounded better than their usual. But all 3 lacked soundstage depth, probably b/c of their poor setup. Why would you put large speakers 24″ from the front wall in a huge room?

    I had a long talk with Julian Margules, the bright light behind what might be called the “Mexican Linn.” Great guy. Teaches at Mexico’s equivalent of MIT. Multi-generational family biz, dating back to 1926. He agreed to fly up for a BAAS demo. Good-sounding stuff.


  4. Bob on July 16th, 2011
  5. I didn’t take any notes either. $11k for the Lindemans is still expensive, but not outrageous for the sound they produced.

    Thanks for the bit of info on Margules Audio! That is very intriguing. I think I’ll spend more time in that room today.

    Despite the delay, my house remodel is coming along. Hopefully the dedicated room will be available to host in November-December timeframe. It’s roughly 15ft x 20ft. And the ceiling goes from 8ft to about 16ft.

    Frank Cheng

  6. gundam91 on July 17th, 2011